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Fulham v Chelsea preview: Blues boosted by Aleksandar Mitrovic absence

Chelsea can count themselves lucky that Fulham will be without talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic when they meet at Craven Cottage on Thursday.

Fulham have been flying this season and don't appear to have any concerns about relegation and an immediate return to the Championship. 

The Cottagers are seventh in the standings, level on points with sixth-placed Liverpool, while a win on Thursday will put them just two points adrift of Tottenham in fifth. 

Chelsea, meanwhile, sit 10th and have only picked up one win from their last eight outings in the Premier League. 

Graham Potter is already under pressure, despite only taking charge on 8th September and he desperately needs to lead his side to victory at Fulham.

WhatFulham v Chelsea
WhereCraven Cottage, London
When20:00, Thursday 12th January 2023
How to watchBT Sport 1
OddsFulham 23/10, Draw 5/2, Chelsea 23/20

Cottagers could struggle without key man 

Mitrovic has torn through the Premier League this season, netting 11 goals, with only Ivan Toney, Harry Kane and Erling Haaland ahead of him in the scoring charts. 

The Serbia international has been an essential part of Fulham's success in 2022/23, ensuring they are steering well clear of a relegation scrap. 

However, he is unavailable for Thursday's encounter at Craven Cottage due to suspension after receiving his fifth yellow card of the campaign in the win over Leicester

He's only missed four of Fulham's games across all competitions this term and three of those have ended in defeat, including a 2-0 loss at League Two Crawley in the EFL Cup. 

Fulham don't appear to have adequate back-up for Mitrovic with Carlos Vinicius, who is likely to start in his place, yet to net since joining in the summer and he is 3/1 To Score Anytime.  

Bobby Decordova-Reid, priced at 15/4 To Score Anytime, is Fulham's second-highest scorer after notching six times in the league, while Joao Palhinha, available at 10/1, has chipped in with three.

Chelsea can't afford to drop further points 

Potter was drafted in as Thomas Tuchel's replacement in September but, after a positive start, Chelsea's form has drifted in the wrong direction. 

They make the short trip across west London after claiming just six points from the last 24 on offer and are in danger of being cut adrift in their pursuit of a top-four spot. 

Chelsea, who are 11/2 To Finish In Top 4, haven't finished lower than fourth since 2017/18 and are already 10 points adrift of the Champions League places.  

The Blues are without an away win in the league since 16th October, losing two and drawing two in the meantime, and they've only picked up three victories from their nine outings on the road. 

They can take some comfort from their recent record against Fulham, winning the last seven meetings and avoiding defeat in each of the last 21 encounters.

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Blues to edge entertaining affair 

Ultimately, Fulham don't pose as much threat without Mitrovic so backing Chelsea at 23/20 in the Full Time Result market offers value.  

Potter insists he has held positive talks with Chelsea owner Todd Boehly about his future but failure to deliver here could leave him in serious danger of getting the sack. 

After successive losses to Manchester City in the FA Cup and Premier League, Chelsea will be desperate to respond and this fixture offers them a great opportunity to bounce back. 

It's 3/1 in the Result/Both Teams to Score market for Chelsea to come through and both sides to get on the scoresheet.  

Of Fulham's four games without Mitrovic, three ended in defeat and two of those have come in the Premier League when they went down 2-1 against Manchester City and Manchester United

Chelsea have only failed to score in three of their nine away league engagements, while Fulham have conceded in seven of their nine at home. 

Meanwhile, Palhinha, who has been a key cog in the midfield engine room for the Cottagers, is one to consider at 10/3 To Be Booked.  

The Portuguese has received six yellow cards this campaign, the joint-most in Fulham's squad, and he could have his work cut-out in trying to stop Chelsea from building attacks.

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